Spreading goodwill in Ameriyah
June 30, 2009
BAGHDAD - An Iraqi Police officer clutches his weapon in one hand and a black garbage bag in the other hand, with eyes fixed ahead, scanning every corner and open window in the Ameriyah neighborhood during a joint patrol, here, June 17.
American Soldiers, walking behind the IP, offer support and more sets of eyes. Suddenly, an IP produces something colorful and furry from the bag, handing the stuffed animal to an Iraqi child.
Soldiers said a good way to earn the trust of the Iraqi people is to show them by their actions that they want to help.
The "Demons" of the 463rd Military Police Company, 93rd Military Police Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, established a good rapport with the people of Ameriyah through constant foot patrols, according to Staff Sgt. Preston, a military policeman assigned to the 463rd MP Co.
"We are pretty much known for our dismounts," O'Neal said. "We usually help the Iraqis. We go and listen to the people."
Some of the help provided by the Soldiers have included repairing equipment and distributing toys and school supplies. O'Neal, a native of Dixon, Mo., said he likes to work with his hands and is eager to use his skills to help the Iraqis. On this patrol, he helped an Iraqi install brakes on his car in front of a mechanic's shop.
"Just last week we helped fix a generator," O'Neal said. "I like to work on things. It shows them we're people too and we're here to help."
The children who met the Soldiers on patrol received stuffed animals from the IP. The toys were donated to deployed troops with the purpose of delivering the toys to children.
"I feel proud because [the children] were happy. We kind of want to reflect to the civilians that we are good," said Bakar Saad Najin, a policeman with the Ameriyah Iraqi Police station.
"It feels good because they're not very privileged," added Pfc. Joel Cantu, a military policeman assigned to 463rd MP Co.
When Soldiers first arrived, children were standoffish, according to Cantu, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., but now they greet the Soldiers and IPs.
"When we first got here, we gave out 100 soccer balls and they liked that."
O'Neal said the goodwill shown toward the Iraqis and their children will hopefully reap continued security gains in the future, when the Iraqi Security Forces are fully responsible for keeping Ameriyah safe.
"If they are comfortable with the IPs, and know they are here to help, they will most likely give information," O'Neal said. "It helps people maybe get them to trust the IPs more."
The simple act of handing out stuffed animals to children can make a difference in building new bridges of trust between the community and the ISF. Children who know they can trust the IP appointed to protect them can grow up upholding the law of their land and strengthening the peace.